The First Christmas Since
Christmas Cards - 1 Dec 12
Rain pelted down outside the windows. John sat at his desk, doggedly writing out his Christmas cards. There weren't many, but several would be going overseas to old army mates, and he wanted to be sure they would arrive before the holiday.
Not that he would be celebrating anything this year.
One card was unique, set aside, waiting. There was no rush writing it as no one would ever read it. He paused, took a deep breath. Took another. Blinked and wiped an eye. He shoved back the darkness and returned to his task.
Rain pelted down outside the windows.
Tree - 9 Dec 12
It was she who'd insisted on the tree. John had agreed to help with little persuasion. Perhaps he, too, felt the need for the comfort of holiday rituals. It would explain the stack of Christmas cards, addressed and stamped, she'd noticed when she'd brought him up tea and biscuits. Not that she was his housekeeper, of course.
He settled the tree in its stand in the corner of her sitting room. She patted his shoulder in thanks. "Lights, next, I think." Keep busy. Keep distracted. Eventually it would become habit. Eventually they would stop listening for Sherlock to come home.
Lights - 10 Dec 12
The strand lights weren't a mess. John had expected to spend a long time untangling them before putting them up on Mrs. Hudson's tree. In a way, he was disappointed--if he could be said to feel much of anything these days. He'd looked forward to the task of working out the snarls and knots. It was mindless, straightforward, and finite. A puzzle he could focus on to block out other things.
Puzzles. He'd been good at them before meeting Sherlock; he'd gotten better since. Now the only mystery John dealt with was how to survive another day without him.
In the bleak midwinter* - 17 Dec 12
The sound of a solo violin so shocked John that he leapt from the sofa, raced down the steps, and burst into Mrs. Hudson's sitting room without pausing to knock. Oddly, he thought when he stopped to think at all, she didn't seem surprised by his sudden entrance. She only smiled sadly at him.
"Just the radio, I'm afraid, dear. 'In the Bleak Midwinter.' I felt compelled to turn it up for some reason." She rose from her favourite chair by the fire. "Tea?"
John stared at her blankly for a moment while her words sank in. "Tea. Yes. Thanks."
Decorations - 19 Dec 12
Oxford Street at the holidays was awash with decorations. Lights arranged in festive and seasonal shapes. Everything from stars and trees to boxes and brollies. John kept his head down, told himself it was to keep the rain off his face. He pulled up the collar of his leather coat--the one Sherlock's drycleaner conveniently had in his "unclaimed items".**
The sudden memory struck like a blow to his solar plexus. He froze.
Generosity disguised as sensibility. The unwillingness to take credit where it was due--so unlike Sherlock in every other realm.
John sniffed, looked down, and kept walking.
Hoarfrost* / Solstice - 21 Dec 12***
Hoarfrost rimed the windows, giving evidence to the age of the double glazing. John slept fitfully on the sitting room sofa, as had become his habit ever since... The fireplace was nothing but cold ashes. Holiday lights from the street below gave the room a faux warmth of red and gold, but the heat that had warmed the flat earlier had long since leaked out the faulty windows. John tucked deeper under the heavy wool blankets.
A slim figure in a knee-length cardigan and velvet skirt sat in the chair across the room.
Fire leapt to life in the hearth.
The longest night was also the coldest. In the chair by the now roaring fire, Winnie sat back and wrapped her cardigan around her. Slowly, warmth began to spread through the sitting room of 221b.
John slept on, unaware of his visitor or the fire she'd conjured for him. As the heat reached him, he relaxed under his mountain of blankets.
Winnie kept him company that loneliest Solstice, although when he woke she and the fire were gone. For the first time since… his heart felt less heavy. He knew who to thank, and wondered what it would cost him.
Stocking - 26 Dec 12
John promised himself Mrs Hudson wouldn't be alone. They spent the afternoon listening to classical holiday music and pretending there wasn't a violin missing in every piece.
Lestrade stopped by between obligations. "There's a card here." He picked it up from inside the front door. "Someone must've slipped it through the letter box."
Mrs Hudson read the name on the envelope. "John Watson."
John met them in the front hall and took it, puzzled. Inside was a card with a picture of a roaring fire and two stockings hanging before it. In old-fashioned script it said simply, "No charge. Winnie".
*Thanks to methylviolet10b for the prompts.
This pic inspired Decorations.
Image from haggishunt.scotsman.com live cam of Oxford Street.